Finding Real-World Applications for Algebra


Eighth-grade students discovered there are many ways their mathematics lessons can be translated into real-world applications when the Engineers Teaching Algebra program came to North Salem Middle School.

Math teacher Suzanne Talyor introduced engineer Mark Love to the eighth-graders, who engaged students in real civil engineering scenarios involving algebraic problem-solving by asking them to figure out ideal phasing and traffic signal timing at complicated intersections.

“When I was this age, I was not convinced things like algebra would be very useful to me,” said Mr. Love. “To give them these connections really gives them a look into one discipline of engineering.”

Students worked both individually and in small groups, taking into consideration factors like the flow of traffic and turning patterns, as they sought to answer the question, “How does an engineer reduce congestion?”

Mr. Love challenged the classes to see who could find the lowest critical number in the scenarios, but emphasized, “Safety is priority number one.”

“It’s challenging,” said eighth-grade student Ivan, who with his partner Elle, were able to find the lowest critical number in the class.

“Figuring out which way is best is most important,” said Elle. “It feels good when the number goes down.”